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Monkey brain chips research involving company Elon Musk co-founded drawing fire in California

Pager, a nine-year-old macaque, is seen playing the video game Pong using only his brain waves after chips from Elon Musk co-founded company called Neuralink were implanted in both sides of his brain. Neuralink / CBS San Francisco

Critics are raising concerns about medical research conducted at the University of California, Davis on live monkeys involving a company co-founded by Elon Musk called Neuralink, CBS San Francisco reports.

For several years, more than 20 monkeys at the UC Davis Primate Center were used in research to treat brain disorders. Neuralink's product is a computer interface that can be implanted in a brain to control motor function.

Pager, a 9-year-old macaque, had a Neuralink chip placed in each side of his brain. With it, Pager was able to play the video game Pong using only his brain waves.

"If you know somebody who's broken their neck or broken their spine, we can solve that with a chip," Musk previously said about Neuralink.

Researchers used UC Davis primates to see if the experimental concept would work.

"You need to test it out and you need to make sure it's as safe as possible before you use it in a human subject," said Jim Newman, of Americans for Medical Progress.

Opponents of the research say the primates are subjected to abusive experiments that sometimes end in death.

"Neuralink gave UC Davis $1.4 million over the course of two and a half years to cut open the skulls of monkeys and implant these devices," said Ryan Merkley, of the group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

"I am absolutely devastated and mad and angry because money should not be able to take over animals lives and hurt them," animal rights activist Linda Middlesworth said.

A lawsuit has been filed against the university demanding that documents about the research be released, and a complaint has been filed with the federal authorities.

"To us, it's very clear that these were violations of the Animal Welfare Act," Merkley said.

UC Davis replied in a statement saying, "We strive to provide the best possible care to animals in our charge. Animal research is strictly regulated and UC Davis follows all applicable laws and regulations."

It's a legal battle of conflicting opinions on cutting edge medical research.

"This technology holds tremendous promise," Newman asserted.

"There's no need to subject animals to these invasive deadly experiments," Merkley said.

The primate center has had several fatal mishaps with monkeys in the past. Seven infant primates died in 2018 due to accidental poisoning. In 2016, a primate died after attempting to escape, and in 2013, one died after being trapped in his cage.

UC Davis says its collaboration with Neuralink ended in 2020.

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